PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Salary negotiations are heating up between Bay District Schools and the teachers union. Educators took to the streets Wednesday afternoon to protest.
Many teachers said they were lowballed at last week’s negotiation meeting with the school district. They said the money is there for veteran teacher raises, and it’s time for the school system to take action.
“It was time for us to get out here and show that we deserve respect and we want support,” Association of Bay County Educators President Denise Hinson said.
Hinson said first-year teachers are making the same amount of money as those who’ve been teaching for 18 years.
That’s because Florida increased starting teaching salaries to $47,500. But now some experienced teachers are making less than that.
“I’m going into my 11th year, and I don’t make what they’re coming in making,” St. Andrew Elementary School Teacher Sandra Aguirre said.
Some of the protesting teachers said they have had their knees kicked out and gotten concussed on the job. Even more, said they work two or three jobs to make ends meet.
Others have advanced degrees but spend weekends cleaning condos and the old paper mill.
“Even with a master’s degree, sometimes I’m cleaning toilets on the weekends,” Northside Elementary School Teacher BJ Meadows said.
The union has been negotiating veteran teacher salaries with the school district for months. Until a week ago, they thought they were making progress.
“I thought we had an understanding that we would provide the maximum increase allowable by law to our veteran teachers,” Union Executive Director Michael Petty said.
Union officials said the school system ignored all of their proposals during the most recent meeting. They believe the district has a $7 million surplus from last school year’s budget which could be used for raises. The school district denies having that amount of a surplus.
The school district denied our request for an interview.
“It makes it hard to go in with a smile on your face,” Aguirre said.
The next negotiation meeting will be Nov. 15 at 4:30.